Mitchell receives lifetime achievement award

John Mitchell, who retired in February, was named one of the winners of the 2023 Paul 'Dr. Z' Zimmerman Award, presented by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).

The Dr. Z Award is given for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL and named after Zimmerman, who covered the NFL for 29 years for Sports Illustrated as their lead NFL writer.

Mitchell spent 29 seasons with the Steelers, starting as the defensive line coach, then served as assistant head coach/defensive line coach and promoted to assistant head coach in 2018.

"I'm grateful to the Rooney family for the wonderful opportunity to coach and work for the Steelers for nearly 30 years," said Mitchell at the time of his retirement. "It was truly an honor. I'd also like to thank Coach (Mike) Tomlin for giving me the opportunity to stay with the franchise when Coach (Bill) Cowher retired. I will treasure my time in Pittsburgh and appreciate everyone affiliated with the organization."

Mitchell broke barriers while at Alabama as the first African American to play, be a captain and an All-American for Alabama.

"I'm not sure that I can offer sufficient praise and admiration for Mitch – as both a man and football coach," said Tomlin when Mitchell retired. "Mitch has been a central figure in the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers for nearly three decades. He has coached some of the best players in this franchise's illustrious history, and each one of them, to a man, would tell you their success was a direct result of not only Mitch's coaching acumen, but also his mentorship, leadership and character.
"Those traits were most evident when he chose to attend the University of Alabama. Mitch's path not only changed his life, but the lives of so many others. It's impossible to truly measure his impact on the game, but I'm eternally grateful for the 16 years we worked together and wish him and (his wife) Joyce the absolute best in retirement."

In addition to Mitchell, New York Giants defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale and the late Bobb McKittrick, who spent 28 years as an NFL offensive line coach, were also honored.